“Punchy political satire with captivating performances”
If you think you know where Ready or Not is heading, look behind you and reload your antique hunting weapon, because you’ve got a long night ahead of you.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s Ready or Not nudges the bounds of the horror-comedy genre to produce a laugh-out-loud funny and gory thrillride with a clear satirical take on the wealthy elite and the shackles of marriage. They’ve crafted a deceptively thorough anti-establishment film that never lets your attention slip.
This film is an angry one. It’s made for an angry time full of people who feel they’ve had the odds stacked against them in a game they didn’t ask to play. For our heroine, Grace, it’s the fact that her newlywed husband’s whole family is armed and trying to kill her in a twisted game of Hide and Seek.
Ready or Not, the second studio film from film collective Radio Silence, has all the promised fun of a horror flick set in a spooky mansion, with a quirky family of well-written and well-cast richie riches. Its comic manipulation of horror tropes, however, doesn’t mean it shies away from a complex political angle.
FROM THIS SECTION ON-WARDS, THE REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Grace (charming Samara Weaving) can’t wait to marry her good-guy fiancee, Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien). The Le Domas Family sits atop a board game dynasty and really digs the whole idea of tradition, which makes for great comic bits and a nice way out of plotholes. So, of course, according to tradition, after every Le Domas couple weds on the mansion grounds, the newly-initiated must join the family in the drawing room for a game on their wedding night. Sound suspicious? You’re right.
Grace draws the Hide and Seek card in the midnight meeting– the only card that necessitates a hunt to the death for a ritualistic sacrifice to Mr. Le Bail (more commonly known as the Devil). If she doesn’t die tonight, the entire Le Domas clan will.
And they do. By the end, every single family member, even the two children, explode into tiny pieces. Killing the two kids is a bold move, but, to be fair, one of them pulls the trigger on Grace and the other benefits implicitly from his family’s deal. No one here is innocent.
After the rest of the family disappears into tiny chunks, Grace is left with her husband who pleads for redemption. Her only response: “I want a divorce.” He explodes in a gloriously gory splat right onto Grace’s face, who licks her lips to clear his blood from her mouth.
Grace, a symbol of the trampled, emerges, her wedding dress bloody and torn, her hair dripping in the blood of her to-be inlaws, while the Le Domas mansion blazes behind her.
Ready or Not poses a surprisingly hopeful solution to the wealth gap: burn the whole thing down.
The film ultimately asks you to consider if being uber-wealthy is, in and of itself, a deal with the devil, in all its self-serving and morally despondent actions. We see the heinous lengths this family is willing to go to protect themselves, and the death toll from the game includes every single member of the house staff. Even our pretty boy fiancee ends up turning against Grace. Once a richie rich, always a richie rich.
And while perhaps its anti-rich tones were most explored, their logical, smart, and capable final girl became an emblem of independence from the bounds of marriage.
We first meet Grace in a beautiful lace wedding gown. It features a traditional lace bodice, complete with a waist sash and an ornate skirt. She graces the halls at the beginning of the game looking like the proper, traditional wife she is meant to be; until Alex tells her tonight could be the end for her.
As Alex leaves her to go take defensive measures for her escape, Grace ventures down the servant’s corridor, but her pesky dress keeps getting caught. It’s almost like tight but voluminous gowns aren’t meant for you to be able to move quickly in. She decides to rip off the bottom layers of her skirt, transforming her look into shabby chic and battle ready. She replaces her heels with her yellow converse. Not the best arch support for running, but we’ll take it.
Throughout the evening we see her don an antique rifle and bandoleer over her shoulder, barely believing what she sees in the mirror. We see her tear off her gown’s sleeves, the back of the dress get ripped open, her previously white dress get covered in what we can only assume is the stuff of decomposing bodies, and then finally, covered in the guts of her would-be family.
More than the things that happen to her, Grace makes active, logical choices of a smart final girl. She uses the wedding sash to strangle the butler. She fights back against the matriarch of the family (Andie MacDowell), but doesn’t just stop when she gets enough of advantage to ease off. No. Instead, Grace smashes her head over and over again, yelling, “Fuck you and your fucking family.”
She doesn’t give up. She doesn’t make stupid choices. She fights for a future as Alex’s wife with a loving family, all whilst learning that an inherited family doesn’t guarantee love, and perhaps being a bride doesn’t allow for the intense rage she feels. Bettinelli-Oplin and Gillett as a directing pair gives us the image of an angry, armed wife, but by the end, her husband is dead and her wedding dress is in shambles.
Ready or Not takes a shot at the two greatest cultural traditions: inherited obscene wealth and marriage. For me, it was a bullseye. With scene-stealer Samara Weaving at the helm and a tight script that kept the comedy coming, I couldn’t help myself from laughing alongside Grace at the end. Because, seriously, rich people are crazy.
Dir: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Prod: Mythology Entertainment, Vinson Films
Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie McDowell
Release date: 21 Aug. 2019 (USA)
Available: In Theatres worldwide.